Hermione starts revising, the teachers pile on extra homework, HRH visit Hagrid, discover he has a dragon’s egg, and later watch it hatch. As the dragon grows, it becomes harder to hide the illegal pet, until Charlie Weasley agrees to have it sent to him in Romania. Norbert is shipped off from the tallest tower, but Harry and Hermione are caught by Filch on their way back to their dorm.
Calendar and Dates
While we can't narrow the events of this chapter down to specific dates, we do know that the bulk of it takes place toward the end of March, which would be ten weeks before exams, and in the weeks following.
Interesting facts and notes
As we learn in this chapter, dragons in JKR's world do not share the characteristics of Tolkien's dragons (which, if Smaug is typical, have human-level intelligence).
In the weeks that followed he did seem to be getting paler and thinner, but it didn't look as though he'd cracked yet.
The reason for Quirrell's changing appearance is because his body is hosting Voldemort, of course, but Rowling is cleverly diverting us here with a perfectly plausible explanation.
"Hermione, the exams are ages away."
"Ten weeks," Hermione snapped.
The exams are the first two weeks of June, as we learn in PA. So we can count back and determine when this is taking place. Ten weeks before the first week of June is the last week of March, more or less.
"You realize we need to pass these exams to get into the second year?
We can assume that this is true, since Hermione would know. Sure enough, their results come out after the whole confrontation with Quirrell and Voldemort and "both he and Ron passed with good marks." They had hoped that Goyle would be "thrown out," but there's nothing to suggest that people actually get chucked out of school for failing exams. More likely they are made to do a year over, which would be highly embarrassing, to be sure. (Note: for a while, the books incorrectly had Marcus Flint in school an extra year because of an error on Rowling's part, and she explained it by saying that he had to do a year over. This error has since been corrected, however.)
The Easter holidays are a two week break, as we learn in book five. This break divides the second and third terms of the school year.
"... the twelve uses of dragon's blood..."
These famous twelve were discovered by Dumbledore, according to his Famous Wizard card. We don't know what they all are, but we do know that one of them is oven cleaner. What isn't clear is why a first year would have to learn this. Probably they don't, but Hermione is being Hermione and memorizing anything and everything that might come in useful on the written exam.
For the film script, Steve Kloves needed to know the twelve uses of dragon's blood. Apparently he wrote a scene with Hermione rattling them off. Rowling reported told him what they were, but the scene never appeared in the final film and the list has never been revealed. Kloves did say in that interview, however, that two of the uses were oven cleaner and spot remover (LA Times. ‘Harry Potter’ countdown: Steve Kloves on a ‘haunting moment’ in ‘Half-Blood Prince’. June 17, 2009).
"...who was looking up 'Dittany' in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi..."
Dittany is called "the magic herb of Crete," which is the only place it grows. It was known in ancient times for its aphrodisiac properties. Hippocrates recommended it for a variety of diseases and maladies, including rheumatism and arthritis. Dittany is called 'diktamo' in Greek and is named after a mountain called Dikti, where it grows profusely. According to some sources, dittany is an ingredient in flying ointments. In the Wizarding world, dittany is a healing agent, one which can, if applied quickly, prevent scarring (HBP24). It is a potion ingredient in the video games, used to create Wiggenweld, a healing potion.
But it's against our laws," said Ron. "Dragon breeding was outlawed by the Warlocks' Convention of 1709, everyone knows that.
A couple of notes on this passage are in order. First of all, Ron refers to "our laws," which indicates an unusual awareness of the existence of the Muggle world. One would expect most witches and wizards to just say "It's against the law." Second, Ron mentioned the Warlock's Convention of 1709. We can assume that he didn't pick this up in History of Magic, so this convention is apparently an important event in Wizarding history, as well known to British wizards as, say, the Fourth of July, 1776, is the US Muggles. What is so important about this convention of senior wizards?
Most likely, this convention is part of the process of officially hiding the Wizarding world away from Muggle civilization which was the result of the summit meeting of the International Confederation of Wizards which took place in 1692. That meeting resulted in the passing of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and as a result the establishment in each country of a modern Ministry of Magic (or the equivelent) to enforce that Statute. The Convention of 1709 was most likely a subsequent conference for the purpose of working out some of the remaining issues that hadn't been resolved by the 1692 Statute. No doubt Mrs Weasley included a study of these formative events in her home schooling of her children.
"Won it," said Hagrid. "Las' night. I was down in the village havin' a few drinks an' got into a game o' cards with a stranger. Think he was quite glad ter get rid of it, ter be honest."
First of all, can you imagine Hagrid, whose hands are the size of dustbin lids (chapter 1), holding a hand of cards? Second, just for the record, the village is Hogsmeade and the bar was the Hog's Head. We'll learn the name of the bar in chapter 16. This is the first we've heard of there being a village near Hogwarts, but we won't learn the its name until the third book. Third, the stranger would have been Quirrell. Where he got a dragon egg is anyone's guess.
"when it hatches, feed it on a bucket o' brandy mixed with chicken blood every half hour."
So we can conclude from this that the milk of a mother dragon is similar in composition to brandy and chicken blood. Interesting. What does that tell us about the nutritional needs of dragons?
"Hagrid, you live in a wooden house," she said.
This bit of information was ignored by the filmmakers, who put Hagrid in a stone house. It really doesn't matter, I suppose, since they also cut almost all of the dragon plot out of the story anyway.
Exceptional character moments
Hagrid, who turns out to be somewhat susceptible to flattery.
Hagrid, who's too good a person to just dump a baby animal in the wild when it becomes difficult to care for the creature.
Harry suddenly turned to Ron.
"Charlie," he said.
"You're losing it, too," said Ron. "I'm Ron, remember?"